Published August 22, 2017
NASHVILLE—According to a recent study, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they are sinners. And most people apparently aren’t too happy about it–only 5 percent say they have no desire to mend their ways.
As America becomes more secular, the idea of sin still rings true, said Scott McConnell, executive director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
“Almost nobody wants to be a sinner,” he said.
The survey question about sin was inspired in part by an exchange McConnell witnessed on his way to a Nashville Predators hockey game.
A religious group of protesters began preaching at people on the street outside the hockey arena, calling them sinners, McConnell said. That led a few people in the crowd to embrace the title with enthusiasm.
“I wondered how many people really think of themselves as sinners,” he said.
Diverse responses to sin
Americans tend to fall into three categories when it comes to sin, according to LifeWay Research’s representative survey of 1,000 Americans that was conducted Sept. 27–Oct. 1, 2016.
A third (34 percent) of Americans say they are sinners and are working on being less sinful, while a quarter (28 percent) say they are sinners and rely on Jesus to overcome their sin. One in 10 say sin doesn’t exist (10 percent) or that they are not sinners (8 percent), while a larger 15 percent prefer not to say if they are sinners at all.
Only 1 in 20 are fine with being sinners (5 percent).
Among the other findings:
Sin and salvation
A 2016 LifeWay study about theology also found many Americans think sin is commonplace.
In that study, two-thirds (65 percent) agreed that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) said it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin.
However, few Americans seemed to think most sins put them in spiritual danger. Three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans disagreed with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes almost two-thirds (62 percent) who strongly disagreed.
In the current survey, McConnell said he was struck by how few Americans—outside of those with evangelical beliefs—say they rely on Jesus to overcome sin, a core Christian belief.
“To some Americans, saying you’re a sinner is a way of admitting you are not perfect,” he said. “To those folks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re evil or should be punished for your sin. That’s something the church should pay attention to.” (WR)
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